Learning From Experience

Learning From ExperienceI heaved my bag out of the back of the minibus and turned around. Here I was, after a slightly nauseating coach journey, in the middle of the Welsh mountains, for my first ever camping trip. The small field was surrounded by closely knit trees and shrouded by a light covering of mist. Along with the glistening dew on the grass, the meadow looked mysterious and magical.
Two hours of hard labour later, we had put up the large green scout tents. They were nice and roomy, but also came with an odd smell. I was definitely glad for the deodorant I had brought.
I had the misfortune that night of needing the toilet in the extremely early hours of the morning. Cautiously and slowly, I crept to the tent door and stepped outside. It was freezing. Cool, crunching sounds followed my feet as I stepped across the frozen grass. Several trips over guy ropes later I realised I should have brought my torch. This thought was confirmed when I almost sat on a slug in the portaloo. As if things couldn’t get any worse, it dawned on me that perhaps some toilet roll would be helpful. I was relieved to finally snuggle back down into my toasty sleeping bag after that traumatic experience.

Keep your shoes inside the tent!

We woke to the bright green of sunlight filtering through the tent, only to find that, being typical Wales, it had rained overnight. I thrust my foot into my welly, and ended up delving into the lake that had formed overnight in my shoe. We all had left our shoes outside apart from Rosie, who had had the sense to keep hers dry inside. And so we ended up squeezing our feet into her size 5 sandles, trainers, flip flops and any other shoe that could be salvaged from the night’s downpour. Lesson learnt from that day: keep shoes inside the tent!

Midweek we had the 36 hour hike, which entailed us hiking for 36 hours over the Welsh peaks, staying overnight in a different campsite and returning to our field the next morning. It was hot work climbing up the first part of the mountain. The sun beat down on our necks, and our large hiking rucksacks soon felt like small elephants on our backs. We picked a spot overlooking the other mountains for our first rest, and the view was breathtaking. The mist had lifted, and the sun illuminated the rolling green fields, shining beauty onto every rock and river. I wished I had brought a camera. A small, winding stream was nearby, so we cooled down by splashing ourselves with the ice cold water. The rest was short lived though, as we had to keep pressing on, and slowly but steadily ascend the mountain.

Stay Dry and Learn how to read a map!

A sudden, ominous grey cloud suddenly loomed overhead. Within seconds the whole sky was a dark, thunderous looking grey. It was then that Jay, our team leader, realised we were lost. Rain started falling then, only a drizzle but still; pathetic fallacy or what. As Jay attempted to locate our position on the map, the small pitter-pattering of raindrops turned to a hard downpour. The absence of the sun brought the cold, and soon enough my waterproofs had soaked through and I was chilled to the bone. I shivered uncontrollably as Jay finally admitted defeat and used the radio we had for special emergencies. Michael, our scout leader, said he would drive up to where we were meant to be going that night in order to head us into the right direction. I tuned out of the tumultuous babble that immediately ensued from everyone. The voices around me exuded worry, so I sat down and closed my eyes and ears, preferring not to catch the seemingly infectious panic. As my waterproofs had turned out to be not so waterproof, cold encased my body and soon became a part of me. It wrapped its frosty fingers around my mind and senses, and I could no longer remember which way was up. I could hear muted, panicked voices and feel hands prodding and shaking me, but it was all too easy to slip willingly into cold’s tight grasp.

Learning From ExperienceSuddenly I found myself in the warm minivan, the heating blasting and my clothes dry. “You had hypothermia,” Michael explained. It turned out we were on the wrong mountain, and Michael had collected us and brought us to the old barn near the campsite. So much for being scouts; we couldn’t even read a map! We spent that night in the barn, with heaters blasting and pasta and hot chocolate to shut out the cold.

Climbing a Waterfall

The rest of the week passed without drama, but on the penultimate day we faced a truly testing challenge; climbing a waterfall. It took us just under an hour to get to the waterfall, which was nestled in between large pines about half way up a nearby mountain. We heard it before we saw it; gushing sounds filled our ears as we neared the rushing mass of water. The waterfall was magnificent; the sunlight that had evaded the trees’ branches threw rainbows over the rocks, the water acting as a prism to the rays. My nerves mounted as I watched others complete first the climb up and then the slow descent. Climbing the waterfall most definitely seemed a challenge. My turn came, and I stood at the bottom looking up into the waterfall’s swirling torrent of water. The first few steps were fine, as there were enough fairly dry rocks to find refuge on. In no time at all I was at the top, having slipped a little on the way up, but overall the climb wasn’t too bad. It was then I realised going back down would be the real challenge. Looking down, I was slightly startled by how far up I had climbed. This was definitely a bad time to discover my fear for heights. Terror gripped me, but the rational part of my mind told me I had to climb down; there was no other way to escape the terrifying heights that lay below. Slowly, cautiously, I began my descent. The rocks seemed slippier, and I couldn’t seem to find purchase on their smooth surface. The roar of the relentless water gushing around me was incredible. It was so loud I didn’t have room to think about my fears, and I managed to get back to the bottom. I was scared, wet and exhausted, but mostly, I was overjoyed. I had conquered my fears.
The next day we packed up and embarked on our five hour journey home. The week had been eventful; we were all extremely tired, but also felt content at our accomplishments.

Learning From ExperienceI really did learn a lot that week:

  • Firstly, take lots of toilet roll when camping!
  • Secondly, remember a torch- it gets very dark at night, and you do not want to sit on a slug or face plant into a tent!
  • Also, keep everything inside tents, as you never want to find an unexpected puddle in your welly!
  • Take a disposable camera, as it is not so disappointing when they get lost, compared to a high tech digital camera. A must is to keep dry, as that also means warmth. Once you are wet and cold it is almost impossible to get warm again. This also requires lots of changes of clothing and good quality sleeping bags and waterproofs.
  • I recommend knowing the signs of hypothermia, as it is a very common occurrence when camping.
  • Knowing how to read maps is also VERY useful, especially when camping somewhere like Wales (i.e the middle of nowhere).
  • Keep all food in sealed bags, as we had a few incidents of ant infestations in the tent due to opened packets of things like biscuits (not nice!).
  • Lastly, have fun and try new, challenging things, as it is such a satisfying, personal gain to overcome your fears!

Author: Riya Suleiman
Edited By: The CampTrip Team

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